The Heart of the Matter
Buffy stared at her mate in stricken disbelief, shaking her head slowly in denial of his accusation. “No,” she insisted softly. “I’m *not* like her. I wasn’t going to hurt you, Spike. You have to know that I wasn’t…”
“Doesn’t matter,” he shrugged, almost casually, as he cut her off. “You still think you’ve got the right to push me around – to try and force me into doing whatever it is you happen to want me to do. Whether or not you *intend* to hurt me is beside the point – because you seem to think you’ve got the bloody *right* to – and you don’t, Slayer. You *don’t*.”
“I – I was just trying to…”
“To what?” he interrupted with rising anger, as he stalked across the room toward her, his eyes aflame with fury. He was just beginning to build up steam, as the weeks of mistreatment and injustice that had begun when he had come to her for help following his escape from the Initiative, suddenly began to rise up in his memory.
“To force me to face my soddin’ fears? To get me to make you feel better about all of this by telling you it’s not your bleedin’ fault? To *bully* me into *forgiving* you?” The incredulous little laugh on the end of his words was nevertheless tinged with a wounded note of hurt and disbelief.
Buffy flinched, unable to come up with any reasonable defense for her actions.
“You know,” Spike went on when she said nothing, with dawning understanding in his voice, “I think I finally get it now.” He was quiet for a long moment, composing his thoughts – and when he spoke again, his voice held a haunting, achingly honest quality to it that tore at Buffy’s heart.
“It’s bloody hard enough to think that from now on, every time I look at you – I’ll see that – that *thing* that wore your face while she – she did those things to me…” His voice softened over the words, and he broke eye contact for a moment, swallowing hard, before looking back at her with an _expression of such anguish in his eyes, that Buffy was sure that that look would haunt her forever.
“To think that – every time you smile at me – I’ll remember – the look of *pleasure* on *your* face while she – while she burned me, and cut me, and – and forced me to…” His voice trailed off, and he shook his head, struggling to maintain his composure against the flood of anger and pain and confusion that filled him with his memories.
Tears streamed down Buffy’s face, as she whispered in a desperate but nearly hopeless voice, “I’m *sorry*…”
“*I’m* sorry, but I believe *I’m* talking right now! Is that all right with you, Slayer?” Spike snapped, his voice trembling with the varying muddled emotions that were currently manifesting themselves as rage.
Buffy did not respond, simply lowered her head in silent admission that he was right.
After all he had been through because of her foolishness and arrogance, the least she owed him was the chance to speak his mind about it.
“You might not have been the one that did those things to me,” Spike conceded, his voice softer now, but full of a depth of hurt and betrayal that Buffy could feel, like a physical ache in her own chest, through the bond that connected them, “but you thought it out – and *decided* — to place me in a position where it *could* be done to me. You wanted me to be that – that helpless.”
He shook his head, lowered momentarily with the shame of the torture and degradation he had endured, before looking her in the eyes again, tears streaming down his face.
“Like I wasn’t already helpless enough,” he whispered, looking away.
“Spike,” Buffy tried again, hesitantly. “I know it’s my fault…but I would *never* have…”
“You might never have chosen to do those things to me yourself,” Spike acknowledged, shaking his head in denial of her partially finished argument, “but you did want me so much under your power that – if you *had* wanted to – you could have – and there wouldn’t have been a bloody thing I could have done to stop you.”
Buffy’s eyes widened as she realized just exactly what he was saying.
“That kind of power, Slayer – no matter *what* you do with it – it’s a violation,” he said softly. “It’s a – a *mental* rape. You – you wanted to have me – completely at your mercy. Under your control. That’s what hurts, Buffy. That you *wanted* to do that to me.”
His use of her name, *now*, when speaking of her thoughtless, cruel plan that had led to this disaster, only served to bring home for her with overwhelming poignancy, the heart of the matter – the reason for his extreme hurt in this moment. It was not so much the torture and abuse he had suffered at the hands of the Slayer – as the fact that Buffy had deliberately made him subject to such abuse.
He was quiet for a moment; the lost, searching look in his eyes seemed to be pleading with her for an explanation – for some reason *why*.
“Spike – you have to understand,” Buffy whispered, her voice shaking uncontrollably with her tears of guilt and regret. “That was before I *knew* you – like I do now. We were enemies. You had just tried to kill me…”
“So you should have staked me,” he said flatly, and the tone of his voice suggested to her that he almost wished that she had. “If I was really such a threat, even with that bloody chip in my head…” His eyes suddenly focused on her again, with a fierce, defiant challenge in his steady blue gaze.
“I haven’t got a chip now,” he reminded her. “You were so worried about *if* the chip ever came out – well why don’t you just stake me, Slayer, if that’s really the issue?”
“No! How do you know I’m not gonna attack you all in your sleep the moment we get back to your house tonight? How do you know for sure that I wouldn’t…”
“No!” Buffy objected sharply, alarm in her eyes. Her voice softened slightly, as she went on, “I know you’re gonna do whatever you have to do to make sure I *never* have to do that,” she assured him, a surprising trust in her eyes that took him off guard a bit. “If – if only for Mom and Dawnie’s sakes,” she went on. “I know you – you love them too much – to put them through the hurt of – of losing you.”
It was clear from the hesitancy, the yearning in her voice, that she wanted to include her own feelings in her explanation – but wasn’t sure if they still mattered all that much to him.
“But Spike,” she went on, looking up to meet his eyes again, willing him to see the truth of her words. “That was before! That was when we were still enemies. It was about doing what was necessary to protect…”
“No it bloody well was not!” Spike argued, his voice rising in anger again. “It was never about necessity – about protecting your own. I was bloody *starving* to death – couldn’t have bitten any of you if I’d tried – I wasn’t a threat to anyone! If you’d have really thought there was a chance I’d be able to hurt anyone, you’d have staked me then, Slayer. You’d never had a problem trying it before.”
He was quiet for a moment, reining in his anger and hurt, before he concluded quietly and clearly.
“No – you knew I wasn’t a real threat. It wasn’t about that. You wanted me at your bloody beck and call – you wanted me – humiliated. Beneath you. I – I annoyed you by saying things the way I bloody well saw them – and you wanted the power to shut me up…”
He paused, studying her _expression, as Buffy lowered her head in shame, crying softly now.
“No,” she whispered. “No – I didn’t…”
But they both knew it was a lie.
Even as she spoke the words, the memory came to her mind of her conversation with Anya – moments after she had all but decided *not* to go through with the ritual. The idea had seemed so distasteful to her, so unnecessary – but then, Anya had explained to her what exactly the ritual would involve – exactly how much power she would wield over the annoying, obnoxious – and undeniably sexy – blonde vampire.
And the idea had suddenly seemed a lot more appealing to her.
Some dark, deep-seated part of her had *liked* the idea of having the “constant pain in her butt” forced to submit to her every whim.
So she had done it.
She had gone through with the ritual that had placed him not only at her mercy, but at the mercy of a vicious, malevolent creature that had taken sadistic pleasure in systematically breaking him, torturing and abusing him, terrorizing him with threats and blows and complex, cruel mind games.
And that entity was not bound, unable to touch him – Buffy was back in control of her own body – but that very force, that had battered and violated Spike without pity – was the very source of her power.
A key factor in who she was.
“Oh, God,” she sobbed softly, breaking down completely as the painful thought occurred to her. “I *am* her!”
Spike stared at her for a long moment, stunned and amazed by her words – but moreso, by the profound power of her admission – accepting responsibility for what had happened to him…even if her assumption was *not* completely accurate.
As he watched her bury her face in her hands, sobbing softly, despairingly – his anger, his fury, began to fade. There was a certain caution, a reserve that he felt toward her now – and he knew that he would probably struggle with it for a long time to come. Her face was the face of his abuser – and the fear he felt at that knowledge was not likely to disappear overnight.
And then, there was a good deal of hurt and anger and resentment, at her arrogance that had brought this whole thing about, as well – her determination to bring him as low as she possibly could, that had resulted in the utter devastation that he had experienced over the past few days.
But the broken tears, the surprising acceptance of responsibility that he saw in her now, would go a long way toward making it possible.
His sapphire eyes softened with compassion, as Spike slowly approached his mate, moving to stand just in front of the weeping Slayer, seeking her gaze with a solemn look on his face.
“You aren’t her, Buffy,” he conceded finally, tenderness in his voice now, as he watched her face intently, standing close to her, but not touching her. “But – she’s *in* you, in a way. She’s – a *part* of who you are, as the Slayer.”
He paused before continuing thoughtfully, “You’re right about one thing, Buffy. Now that you’re my mate – now that I’ve – fallen in love with you…with your family – you’re right. Chip or no chip, I want to make you happy. Don’t wanna ever hurt you. I’m gonna be working at controlling my demon – keeping it under control – for the rest of my bloody unlife.”
After a moment’s silence, allowing her to take that in, he added, “Seems to me – you should be doing the same.”
Buffy looked suddenly up at him, startled by his words. She had never quite thought of it in that way before. If the Slayer demon was the source of her supernatural strength – in a way, a part of who she was – did that mean that she was actually not completely human – actually *part* demon?
Her eyes widened as she looked away, trying to process the thought that sent a chill of terror through her heart. Was she destined to always fight the darker impulses that had controlled her over the past few days – as Spike would always have to fight his demon?
“That’s why – why I recognized you – as the one I wanted for my mate,” Buffy struggled over the words, as the thought occurred to her. “Even before the Slayer was released – she was still a part of me…”
Spike nodded slowly, cautiously, as he replied, “Could be…sort of.” He shrugged disarmingly, a playful look rising to his face in spite of the seriousness of the situation, as he remarked mildly, “I was telling myself it was more like you just – saw me naked, and couldn’t help yourself — thought, ‘There’s a rare fine specimen of manliness – bloody sexy, too – think I’ll just take that home with me’.”
Buffy smiled in spite of herself, through her tears – which was exactly what her mate had intended – as she sank down shakily on the edge of the bed behind her, weary and overwhelmed. Her smile faded as a troubling thought occurred to her, just as Spike sat down beside her on the bed.
“But – I don’t understand,” she went on, confusion in her slow, cautious words. “If it was the Slayer side of me that wanted you for her mate – then why was all she seemed to want to do – to hurt you and break you down? Why did she keep trying to destroy you, if she wanted you for her mate?”
“*She* didn’t,” Spike replied softly. “*You* did.”
Buffy raised her red-rimmed eyes to meet his again, puzzled and waiting for him to go on.
“The original Slayer wasn’t a girl *combined* with the actual demon, love…what purpose would that serve? If she was part demon, she’d be just as likely to go after humans as other demons, if she felt inclined to go after her own kind at all in the first place. Wouldn’t make a lot of sense, would it?”
Buffy shook her head slowly, giving him an expectant look.
“They *bound* the demon – and magically took of its essence – its attributes – strength, speed, agility…” He paused before adding with a little smirk, “…an infuriating competitive, controlling streak…and put those things into the girl. So each Slayer would have those traits – but she’d still be her, yeah?” he explained, pausing to be sure she understood.
“So – when Willow did her spell – she released the *actual* demon – not just its essence,” she concluded.
“Right – and that part, the part that’s a part of you, doesn’t have personality or free will and all of that. It’s just like – character traits. Not a separate being like what took you over.”
“So you’re saying – I’m *not* really part demon, after all,” Buffy visibly relaxed at the thought, looking anxiously up at him for reassurance. “I just – have some of the powers that she has – that normal humans don’t?”
Spike nodded with an encouraging smile.
Buffy frowned, confused again, and perhaps a bit annoyed as she met his eyes. “So – what was all that about ‘she’s a part of you’ and ‘learn to control your demon’?” she asked dubiously.
“Well, that first bit *you* said, pet – not me,” Spike pointed out, and then smiled, more than a little sadly, as he added softly, “And as for the rest – well – we *all* have demons, love.”
Buffy was silent, thinking through what he was saying.
The basic idea of what he was trying to tell her – the reason for his reaction earlier – had more to do with *her*, and her nature – her darker tendencies, and personality foibles that had ended so badly in this case– than with the otherworldly creature that had inhabited her body — though that was certainly an issue as well.
But more important, she realized, were the things about herself, that needed to be dealt with – before they could cause her and her mate any more pain. She looked back up at Spike’s face, determination in her shining emerald eyes as she spoke with certainty, and a firm resolve to face up to the changes she was going to have to make.
“Tell me, Spike,” she said quietly, bravely holding his gaze. “What demons do *I* have to face?”
The blonde vampire’s eyes widened at the question, and he drew in a deep breath, sighing it out with a soft, “Bloody hell…” A slow smile came across his lips as he shook his head slowly, meeting her eyes with a question — and just the littlest bit of amusement.
“Where do you want me to start, pet?”